- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2005

ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) — Urie Bronfenbrenner, a Cornell University psychologist who pioneered an interdisciplinary approach to the study of child development and helped create the federal Head Start program, died at his home Sept. 25 from complications of diabetes, the school announced. He was 88.

He had been a member of the Cornell faculty since 1948.

“Urie was the quintessential person for spurring psychologists to look up and realize that interpersonal relationships, even the smallest level of the child and the parent-child relationship, did not exist in a social vacuum,” said Melvin L. Kohn, a professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University, who studied under Mr. Bronfenbrenner.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Bronfenbrenner helped spur the creation of Head Start, the federal child-development program for low-income children that has served millions of children since 1965.

According to an account on the American Psychological Association’s Web site, Mr. Bronfenbrenner was on a Head Start planning committee appointed by R. Sargent Shriver, director of President Johnson’s anti-poverty efforts. Mr. Bronfenbrenner persuaded his colleagues to include the family and community in Head Start, in order to better help poor children.

In his later years, Mr. Bronfenbrenner warned that the process that makes human beings human was breaking down as trends in American society produced chaos in the lives of America’s children.

“The hectic pace of modern life poses a threat to our children second only to poverty and unemployment,” he said.

Born in Moscow in 1917, Mr. Bronfenbrenner came to the United States at age 6. He received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell in 1938, a master’s from Harvard and a doctorate from the University of Michigan. He served in the Army as a psychologist before joining the Cornell faculty.

He is survived by his wife, Liese, and six children.


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